At first glance, Richard Rezac’s sculptures might be described as cool, crisp, or sleek. But his careful craftsmanship and delicate choice of color imbue the objects with a warm familiarity, and their contrasting surfaces often activate tactile memories.
Earlier this month Rezac’s exhibition, titled Address, opened at the Renaissance Society. Though the work in the show spans the last 20 years, for executive director and chief curator Solveig Øvstebø, the exhibition is not a retrospective. “We wanted it to be a new commission,” she said, “a comprehensive new installation related specifically to the space of the Renaissance Society.”
Øvstebø’s colleague, Janine Mileaf, director of the Arts Club of Chicago, had a similar idea. She commissioned Rezac to create a new sculpture for the Arts Club’s outdoor space. Inspired by the urban location of the Arts Club, the organization’s connection to sculptor Constantin Brancusi, and his own interest in Shaker fence building, Rezac built Glen Elder.
“We decided that it would be a nice collaboration to do these exhibitions at the same time,” Øvstebø said, “to emphasize both institutions’ respect for his work and his role in the Chicago art landscape.” Her deep admiration for Rezac and his rigorous studio practice is evident. “He is one of the strongest sculptors working in the U.S. today,” she said. “Over the span of 40 years he has been true to his project and worked quietly in his very own vein. There are very few artists who show this kind of uninterrupted concentration.”
Øvstebø, like many others, is drawn to Rezac’s work not only because of its formal beauty and distinct quality, but also because of the way he builds his sculptures. “He makes them all by hand through a very determined process in which meticulous geometry and math are combined with a deep feeling for color and shape,” she noted.
Rezac was kind enough to answer a number of questions about his childhood, his education, and his current art practice. Following is an edited transcript of our recent conversation.